Round 7 – Richmond v Fremantle: Zen and the Art of following the Tigers

 

I’m at the MCG and feeling pretty relaxed. That’s rather unusual, just in itself.  Normally, on match days I am anxious and superstitious, but this doesn’t seem to be the case today.  My lucky Club80 t-shirt, which I wore to all three finals last year, was still in the wash this morning, so was my Premiers 2017 Polo top, meaning I wasn’t able to wear either today. Once, these would have been disasters, bad omens that would make my tummy churn, signals that the day would not go well. But I am not even fussed.

 

This is a new thing. For years, I have been like an expectant bride, always wearing something old and something new, maybe matching a new scarf with an old-school Tigers cap with a Motorola logo or vice versa, dressing carefully, always respectful to the football Gods. The Tigers needed all the help I could give them. Certainly, I wasn’t going to rock the boat by adopting a “devil-may-care” attitude.

 

Now I am pretty Zen about it all. This morning, I just chucked a shirt and a pair of strides on and made my way to the footy, something that would not have happened a year ago. For old times’ sake, I did wear my lucky yellow and black underpants, but even this was an after-thought, a habit more than anything else.

 

When the two teams ran out onto the ground, the first player I noticed stood half a head above his Fremantle team-mates, a veritable Goliath, a giant of a man. At the corresponding game last year, I was filled with dread when he ran out.  How are we going to handle this brute, I wondered? What will we do when he wins 5,000 hit-outs and picks out his team-mates with every one of them? Today he just looks like any other big doofus ruckman.

 

Their captain, Nat Fyfe, has been in good form but even the sight of a Brownlow Medallist representing the other team does not concern me. After all, we have a couple of those of our own these days. Sure, only one of ours is playing today, but who is counting? I’m breathing rarefied air, nothing fazes me.

 

The early cut-and-thrust of the game is all the Tigers’ way, just as I had expected. Dusty aims an obligatory banana kick at the goals and hits the inside of the post, quite an achievement really.  We miss a few more shots early, some are sloppy kicks and others are rushed through for behinds by a Fremantle defence that is already taking no chances. The ball camps in our forward line for most of the first quarter. Fyfe puts on a clinic, taking several strong contested marks, linking with his team-mates and keeping the Tigers honest. David Astbury leads the way for Richmond, replying with strong marking of his own. Still feeling relaxed, still thinking Zen. As the siren rings to end the first quarter, the Tiges have a handy lead, Fremantle are already up against it.

 

I have been confident at the footy in years gone by, I really have. This is not an entirely new state of affairs. There have been times when I felt that we had the other team covered, that it would all work out in the end. Of course, those thoughts would dissipate when things went pear-shaped. Then, my mood would change, maybe I’d go quiet, ready to accept the inevitable, maybe I would rail against the injustice of it all, blame the umpire, count the free kicks, speculate on how things could have been done differently. I could whine and sook with the best of them.

 

When Richmond play at the MCG, sometimes Dusty goes up forward. Everyone knows this. Inevitably, the ball is kicked to towards him and you can hear the expectation, the noise of the crowd, building up to a crescendo, anticipating an imminent goal. Momentarily, we are not disappointed, a simple kick goes straight through the middle and the ball is taken back for a bounce. Then it is overturned, courtesy of a fingernail identified on a grainy piece of film! Do I go ballistic? Do I weep and wail? Nope, still feeling Zen. It doesn’t matter I tell everyone around me, assuredly.

 

Five minutes later, it happens again, this time another errant fingernail is discovered in Josh Caddy’s path to goal. What is going on here, did the umpires go into the rooms to check the length of the Fremantle players’ fingernails? Is it amateur hour again? Is there a hidden agenda? These are the questions I would usually ask in these circumstances, as my face turned purple and my carotid artery bulged in the finest David Parkin tradition, but today, I don’t even think of them. It still doesn’t matter, I proffer contentedly again.

 

I enjoy a quiet beer at half-time. It is not a nervous beer, nor is it to steady my nerves for a tense second half, it is sociable and relaxing. I am even full of praise for Fyfe, railing manfully against the odds, he is playing some game.

 

Then we are in the third quarter. By all my historical measures, this particular third quarter sees the game turn pear-shaped, fact is,  it is the very embodiment of a pear-shaped game. Fremantle get the rub of the green, they kick goals, we miss goals, their midfield asserts itself, Richmond look barely interested. It’s all good though, none of this matters. Think Zen.

 

The final quarter begins. The Tigers click into action like a well-oiled machine. The guy in the row behind me wants a ten goal quarter and he nearly gets it. Jack Graham plays his best game since the Grand Final, Jason Castagna underlines his improvement in 2018, seriously putting on the afterburners and rocketing away from a hapless defender, Kane Lambert is superb, Big Nancy, well beaten at the centre bounces, finishes the game on top of his opponent in every other respect and Dylan Grimes, the man with a hundred tricks for pushing the ball deliberately out of bounds and making it look like he was trying to do something else, is close to our best.

 

Now, where is that motorcycle repair manual?

 

RICHMOND      4.5   7.11   7.16    15.20 (110)

FREMANTLE     1.1    1.3     4.8       4.9 (33)

 

GOALS

 

Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Lambert 2, Townsend 2, Houli, Higgins, Lloyd, McIntosh, Conca, Caddy, Graham, Castagna

Fremantle: Brayshaw, Ballantyne, McCarthy, Cox

 

BEST

 

Richmond: Lambert, Grimes, Graham, Astbury, Martin, Houli

Fremantle: Fyfe, Neale, Hamling, Sandilands

 

INJURIES

 

Richmond: Prestia (calf)

Fremantle: Nil

 

Reports: Nil

 

Umpires: Donlon, Haussen, Meredith

 

Official crowd: 43,240 at the MCG

 

About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time!

Comments

  1. JBanister says:

    Good stuff, JDP. You’re not alone on the zen. I can scarcely be bothered abusing the umpires anymore. And I found last week that I’d book a tattoo session over a Richmond game. The sort of nonchalance/zen never felt before.

  2. I, too, have embraced the Zen. Richmond have taught me to be patient and relaxed, which is totally against my nature.

    How good is it to be able to see a player like Fyfe at his very best and still have the Tigers come away with a good win.

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    Thanks guys, “Embrace the Zen” could be the Tigers’ bumper sticker for 2019.

  4. Stainless says:

    Joe
    I have faint memories of feeling like this back in the early 1980s when I’d go to some games knowing it was simply a question of winning margin, not winning. I never thought I’d experience that feeling again but I did on Sunday. It’s scarcely believable that 12 months ago almost to the day we lost this fixture in a most “Richmondy” manner. There wasn’t much Zen in evidence that day yet the transformation since has been extraordinary.
    A couple of tough games away from the G will test the Zen spirit over the next fortnight.

  5. Peter warrington says:

    Yes we are all on some trip. I have found myself Collingwood and North (both weeks ago). I share love with one and all. I scoff at umpires. I am starting to fall in love With McIntosh, who seems to think the idea of he as a Premiership Player is as bizarre as I do.

    This is it. This is what we waited for. Not winning. It’s about not caring.

    (However we look more of a chance this year than last, of that is even a thing.)

    Go us!

  6. Joe De Petro says:

    I remember that feeling too, Stainless, and yes, it is the same feeling now. I am old enough to remember 1972-74. My favourite games were the ones where the Tiges would dominate early but kick inaccurately for a couple of quarters, before getting on target and winning easily-exactly what happened on Sunday.

    PW, McIntosh is a classic. Footy needs more like him, he is an amiable bruiser who plays hard with a smile on his face. That how sport should be played,

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